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The History of the Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament and the Sir Henry Morgan Angling Association

Shortly after the end of the Second World War, James B “Big Jim” Paterson, of Anchovy Farm, just to the east of the then-bustling town of Port Antonio, Portland, Jamaica, mooted the idea of angling for the elusive and feisty "monster" then being reported by fearful fisher-folk of Jamaica in their fragile wooden canoes, the Atlantic Blue Marlin (ABM). In 1948, after much trial and error, he caught one of the first blue marlin ever reported in Jamaica. As Port Antonio was then the cradle of tourism, “Big Jim” Paterson became further convinced that the true sport of deep sea angling in Jamaica held great promise for our fledgling tourism attraction and needed to be pursued as an alternative tourism product and he was instrumental in acquiring one of the first fully equipped sport fishing boat for Jamaica.

Ten years later, on Monday October 5th, 1959, the First Port Antonio International Blue Marlin Tournament was held out of Titchfield Hotel.  By the following year the Port Antonio Marina was created from an abandoned railway-barge banana export facility and new docks were built out of locally-plentiful coconut-tree trunk piles, renewed annually and utilized for the next 25 years!!  Many of these original anglers have long since departed that port for the wide blue ocean yonder and included names like Peter Desnoes, original brewer of our world-famous “Red Stripe Jamaican Beer”, indeed most likely formulated for his sporting days at sea!  “Big Jim” Paterson and his Eastern Jamaica Anglers’ Association ran this event without a break for the next nineteen years. Sadly, in 1977, the prevailing downward economic climate and social tensions in Jamaica brought it to its demise.

The Sir Henry Morgan Angling Association Ltd. (SHMAA) was formed in Port Royal, Kingston in 1978 in order to fill this angling void created in Jamaica’s competitive sport-fishing calendar.  This small group of avid anglers conducted several angling tournaments out of Port Royal and adopted their name from Port Royal's famous and colorful Swashbuckling Pirate of Yore – Captain Henry Morgan! The said pirate was knighted by the wise King of England in an inspired move to rid piracy from Port Royal and ultimately from the West Indies.  Morgan died in Port Royal of congestive heart failure and was buried in the then Port Royal Anglican Church Yard, only to disappear once again when the church was swallowed up by the Great Earthquake of 1492.  Luckily one of the rescued artifacts was the golden chalice stolen by the then Captain/Sir Henry from the plundered City of Panama, his last great act of piracy!!  This Chalice can still be seen in the “new” Port Royal Anglican Church today.

In 1980 The Jamaica Tourist Board, then under MP Frank Pringle, approached his friend, Joseph “Mas’ Joe” Kieffer, and encouraged him to revive the popular but now defunct international sport fishing event of Port Antonio.  Mas’ Joe and his merry band of drunken anglers congregated over a bottle of Rum or two and in 1982 the informal “Sir Henry Morgan Anglers” of Port Royal was formed into a limited liability company. This band of reprobates included Guy Harvey and his fishing friend Dr. Ron DuQuesnay. The dream was realized by obtaining and refurbishing the old and derelict, Port Antonio Marina from the JDF Coast Guard.

They went on to stage the 20th Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament (PAIMT).   A 42-boat entry landed 28 Atlantic Blue Marlin (ABM), the heaviest was caught by a visiting American Team, weighing in at 519 lbs. and setting a new Jamaican record.  We were off to a good start in reviving one of the most popular sporting events in the world, the sport of angling.

The all-island Jamaican Atlantic Blue Marlin (ABM) record of 519 Lbs. held until 1984 when Robert ‘Bobby’ Miller, fishing on the boat“ByePass”in the Ocho Rios ("sister") Tournament, landed his 592 pounder, and this remains the All-Jamaica Tournament Record today.

In 1988 Hurricane Gilbert effectively destroyed the "fragile" Port Antonio Marina "coconut-trunk pile" docks. This caused the only PAIMT cancellation run by Sir Henry Anglers.  In 1994, the "PAIMT" entries peaked with a 68-boat entry and a catch of 124 Atlantic Blue Marlin, giving the tournament a record 1.8 marlin per boat average statistic, the best tournament record in Jamaica to date.  This was to remain the premier tournament year of the '90's and that for the SHMAA-"Club".  Many other and larger ABM has been sporadically reported over the years but have never been sport-fishing verified nor accepted!

In 2001 “Mas Joe” Kieffer was summoned by the Grand Fishing Master above to account for his sins and his leadership position then fell to another reprobate, Dr. Denis ‘Ron’ DuQuesnay, "Doc DQ".  He continued the efforts of Sir Henry Morgan’s Anglers and placed even greater emphasis on verified releasing of the ABM especially and to encourage the overall conservation of game fish and the Jamaican marine environment. To this end SHMAA further adopted a mandatory, research-oriented Tag and Release angling format with photo-confirmation in order to study the local movements of the ABM, with a minimum size allowed for landing a marlin of approximately 300 Lbs. so as to enhance Jamaica’s participation in the international endeavors to study the local movement, growth and numbers of the Atlantic Blue Marlin in the Caribbean when recaptured.  A great pioneering step forward but locally a very controversial effort!  We do eat and relish marlin meat, especially smoked over pimento-wood!!

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA), the world governing body over angling and the sport of fishing, became very interested in our efforts and was invited to come to the Port Antonio Tournament in 2001.  They in turn recognized the "Club" and its tournament practices already in place and invited the winning angler-team of the annual Port Antonio event to represent Jamaica at the international “Olympics” of sport fishing, the First Rolex/IGFA Invitational Offshore World Championship (OWC), initially held in Hawaii, and then annually in the host countries of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and is now held in Quepos, Costa Rica.   The winners of the Port Antonio Event have attended many of these invitational international events with excellent exposure for the Jamaican Tourism Product internationally.

Our Club’s motto was now confirmed thatA released, alive and tagged marlin is indeed worth much more to the Jamaican Tourism Product than a dead and eaten one!’ Not a locally popular undertaking then but now gaining ground slowly as an acceptable practice in Jamaica's sport fishing events. The Montego Bay Yacht Club has been encouraged and has now adopted this conservation-minded path since 2014 and is now an internationally accepted Jamaican angling tournament also.

It is with this thought in mind that the Sir Henry Morgan Association Ltd. has continued to practice, expand, maintain and improve the rich tradition of conservative Sport Fishing Practice, aka "angling", which has no doubt helped in sustaining and enhancing the preservation of our surrounding Jamaican marine life.  We believe very strongly in this very popular international sport as a tourism enhancing product and we also believe equally strongly in the total preservation of the entire marine environment around Jamaica, most of which is being heavily destroyed through ignorant abuse and very bad environmental practices.  The continued practice and formation of Protected Marine Parks around Jamaica and Coral Re-growth experiments and active implementation of "tour guides" of displaced fishermen etc. will go a long way to change the destructive practices of many; the involvement of the marine biologists of the University of the West Indies holds great promise for the future of Jamaican reefs and thus for the re-growth of destroyed fish populations.  The Parrot fish and “Doctor fish” must be strongly protected as essential "groomers and protectors" of the threatened coral animals!

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